From Phrank Shiabu
On the morning of February 7,2010, I sat down to another edition of the Sunrise daily programme on channels TV as they continued their discourse on Kogi politics. The Kogi debacle, in which two governors are laying claim to a mandate, has been the subject of debates in most for a since the Supreme Court ruling Chamberline Usoh, Suleiman Aledeh, and Maope Ogun were in their usual tongue twisting best. But there was a guest they clearly underestimated.
From the word go, the guest spoke amid illustrations like he was reading from a book. At some point I was quick to ask my cousin seated if the guest was a lawyer by training. Then came the flasher on the screen. “Phrank Shiabu, Media Consultant to Jibrin Isah Echocho”. I adjusted immediately in anticipation for fireworks. I wasn’t disappointed to say the least at the end of the encounter.
The issue was contentious yet timely because in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling terminating the tenure of five states (Adamawa, Sokoto, Bayelsa, Cross River and Kogi) lots of legal and political questions came to the front burner which Phrank Shiabu sufficiently highlighted. Initially, I had my reservations about the seeming arrogance with which he approached the questions, but after hearing the arguments, I couldn’t but agree with him any less for three strategic reasons being a lawyer myself.
Firstly, he wondered why the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) could arrogate to itself the powers to interpret the judgment of the revered Supreme Court. This point in my opinion is very valid. What I expected INEC to do was to approach the Supreme Court for a consequential order on Kogi State given that an election had already been conducted. But again, if the ruling should be followed to the letter, the election that produced Capt. Idris Wada does not stand in the eyes of the Law. In my opinion this is so because the judgment succinctly averred that the tenure of the governors had elapsed by May 28th 2011 and that elections ought to have been conducted in April.
What this means is that all activities that took place after May 28th 2011 is not recognized by Law. By extension, the primaries that produced Capt Wada and likewise the election are to be considered null and void because there, the election that produced Wada was held 8 months after the expiration of the tenure of the governor. This is obviously in conflict with the provisions of the Electoral Act of 2010 as amended. I think INEC got it really wrong in this instance because nothing stops INEC from approaching a court of law for interpretation of the judgment. But Phrank got it right.
Secondly, he also wondered why the former governor should mandate the customary court judge to swear in Capt Wada. For me, there are two issues here. One is that the former governor had no right whatsoever to preside over the swearing in ceremony because by virtue of the Supreme Court ruling, he automatically became an ordinary citizen of the state. Two is that the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended in section 185 stipulates that the Chief Judge of a State should administer the Oath of Office to an incoming governor and not the president of the Customary Court of Appeal. I know some might want to argue further because there is also provision for the Grand Khadi or the President of the Customary Court of Appeal. This is common sense; what the interpretation of that relevant section of the Constitution connotes is that in the event of the non availability of the Chief Judge, the Grand Kadi or President of the Customary Court of Appeal can stand in his place. But the Kogi scenario was different. The former governor who had become an ordinary citizen pressurized the Chief Judge to swear in Capt Wada which he turned down for obvious and justifiable reasons based on the ruling of the Supreme Court. But the former governor mandated the President of the Customary Court of Appeal to swear in Capt. Wada.
The third issue bothers on the validity of the January primaries that produced Jibrin Isah Echocho. While the guest speaker, Phrank Shaibu, spoke eloquently on most of the issues he failed to convince spectators like us on why Echocho’s mandate should stand in place of another fresh primary election. If I should try to validate his stance I will opine that the primary that produced Echocho should stand because it falls within the stipulated timeframe in the Electoral Act of 2010 If that is the case at what point does one place premium on a primary that was conducted 8 months after the expiration of the tenure of the Ibrahim Idris?
Even more curious is the fact that INEC refused to approach the Supreme Court after the contentious judgment passed by the Court of Appeal and yet Professor Jega deemed it fit to endorse the inauguration of Capt Wada despite the Supreme Court ruling, needless to mention that Capt Wada was not a party in the suit. On a final note, just like Phrank said, INEC erred y insisting that Wada’s swearing in was in order. I consider it a disregard of the Supreme Court judgment and an insult to our sensibilities.